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Administration of Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 improves behavioral, cognitive, and biochemical aberrations caused by chronic restraint stress


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Increasing numbers of studies have suggested that the gut microbiota is involved in the pathophysiology of stress related disorders. Chronic stress can cause behavioral, cognitive, biochemical, and gut microbiota aberrations. Gut bacteria can communicate with the host through the microbiota-gut-brain axis (which mainly includes the immune, neuroendocrine, and neural pathways) to influence brain and behavior. It is hypothesized that administration of probiotics can improve chronic-stress-induced depression. In order to examine this hypothesis, the chronic restraint stress depression model was established in this study. Adult SPF Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to 21 days of restraint stress followed by behavioral testing (including the sucrose preference test, elevated-plus maze test, open-field test, object recognition test, and object placement test) and biochemical analysis. Supplemental Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 was provided every day during stress until the end of experiment, and SSRI citalopram served as a positive control. Results showed that Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 improved chronic restraint stress induced behavioral (anxiety and depression) and cognitive dysfunction, showing an effect similar to and better than that of citalopram. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 also resulted in lower plasma corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone levels, higher plasma IL-10 levels, restored hippocampal 5-HT and NE levels, and more hippocampal BDNF mRNA expression than in chronic stress rats. Taken together, these results indicate an anti-depressant effect of Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 in rats subjected to chronic restraint stress depression and that this effect could be due to the microbiota-gut-brain axis. They also suggest the therapeutic potential of Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 in stress-related and possibly other kinds of depression.
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X. HU,
W. LI,
X. WU,
Key Laboratory of Mental Health, Institute of Psychology,
Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Teacher Education College, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu,
Abstract—Increasing numbers of studies have suggested
that the gut microbiota is involved in the pathophysiology
of stress-related disorders. Chronic stress can cause
behavioral, cognitive, biochemical, and gut microbiota
aberrations. Gut bacteria can communicate with the host
through the microbiota–gut–brain axis (which mainly includes
the immune, neuroendocrine, and neural pathways) to
influence brain and behavior. It is hypothesized that
administration of probiotics can improve chronic-stress-
induced depression. In order to examine this hypothesis,
the chronic restraint stress depression model was established
in this study. Adult specific pathogen free (SPF) Sprague–
Dawley rats were subjected to 21 days of restraint stress
followed by behavioral testing (including the sucrose
preference test (SPT), elevated-plus maze test, open-field
test (OFT), object recognition test (ORT), and object place-
ment test (OPT)) and biochemical analysis. Supplemental
Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 was provided every day during
stress until the end of experiment, and selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) citalopram (CIT) served as a
positive control. Results showed that L. helveticus NS8
improved chronic restraint stress-induced behavioral
(anxiety and depression) and cognitive dysfunction, showing
an effect similar to and better than that of CIT. L. helveticus
NS8 also resulted in lower plasma corticosterone (CORT)
and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels, higher
plasma interleukin-10 (IL-10) levels, restored hippocampal
serotonin (5-HT) and norepinephrine (NE) levels, and more
hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA
expression than in chronic stress rats. Taken together, these
results indicate an anti-depressant effect of L. helveticus
NS8 in rats subjected to chronic restraint stress depression
and that this effect could be due to the microbiota–gut–brain
axis. They also suggest the therapeutic potential of
L. helveticus NS8 in stress-related and possibly other kinds
of depression. Ó2015 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All
rights reserved.
Key words: Lactobacillus helveticus, chronic restraint stress,
depression, microbiota–gut–brain axis, BDNF, serotonin.
Stress is unavoidable. Chronic uncontrollable stress is
especially detrimental. Stressful life events can impair
digestion, immune responses, endocrine function, brain
function, behavior, and cognition. It is possible that they
may also induce a variety of diseases such as functional
gastrointestinal disorders and mental disorders, including
major depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder,
and drug addiction (Kessler, 1997; Wichers and Maes,
2002; Hammen, 2005; Alexander et al., 2007; Cleck and
Blendy, 2008; Lupien et al., 2009; Marin et al., 2011;
Moloney et al., 2014). And the chronic stress model is very
common in animal studies (maternal separation, chronic
unpredictable mild stress, chronic restraint stress, etc.) to
mimic the etiology and pathophysiology of human depres-
sive disorder (Glavin et al., 1994; McArthur and Borsini,
2006; Abelaira et al., 2013). However, less is known about
the effects of stress on intestinal microbiota. Chronic stress
(including chronic restraint stress, maternal separation,
social disruption, dietary and environmental stress) can dis-
rupt the microbiota integrity, reduce the microbiota diversity
and richness (Tannock and Savage, 1974; Bailey and
Coe, 1999; O’Mahony et al., 2009; Bailey et al., 2010,
2011). Different bacteria respond differently under stress.
Levels of beneficial bacteria, such as genus Lactobacillus
(LB), have been found to decrease quickly after stress, the
populations of neutral and harmful bacteria like Citrobacter
rodentium and genus Clostridium increased significantly
(Tannock and Savage, 1974; Holdeman et al., 1976
March; Bailey and Coe, 1999; Bailey et al., 2010;
Bangsgaard Bendtsen et al., 2012; Park et al., 2013;
Bailey, 2014; Galley et al., 2014).
Until recently, scientists have started to realize the
great importance of gut microbiota, as evidenced by the
booming study of the human microbiome (the human
0306-4522/Ó2015 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
*Corresponding author.
Abbreviations: 5-HT, serotonin; ACTH, adrenocorticotropic hormone;
BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor; CIT, citalopram; CON, control
group; CORT, corticosterone group; CRS, chronic restraint stress
group; DA, dopamine; ELISA, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay;
EPM, elevated plus-maze; HPA, hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal;
IDO, indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase; IL-10, interleukin-10; INF-c,
interferon-gama; LB, lactobacillus; NE, norepinephrine; OFT, open-
field test; OPT, object placement test; ORT, object recognition test;
PFC, prefrontal cortex; qPCR, quantitative real-time polymerase chain
reaction; SPF, specific pathogen free; SPT, sucrose preference test;
SSRI, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor; TDO, tryptophan-2,3-
dioxygenase; TNF-a, tumor necrosis factor-alpha.
Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577
second genome-metagenome) (Human Microbiome
Project, 2012a,b; Nicholson et al., 2012; Yatsunenko
et al., 2012). The human intestinal tract is a set of
microbe-friendly organs where approximately 10
of var-
ious microbes live. Collectively, they have more than 200
times as many genes as humans. They are indispensable
to health and disease (Lyte, 2010; Burcelin et al., 2013).
Without gut microbiota, the host would present dysfunc-
tion of the digestive system, immune system, neuroen-
docrine system, nervous system, behavior, and
cognition (Diamond et al., 2011; Al-Asmakh et al., 2012;
Manco, 2012; Clarke et al., 2013; Davari et al., 2013; Di
Mauro et al., 2013; Crumeyrolle-Arias et al., 2014;
Desbonnet et al., 2014). In other words, gut microbiota
are essential to system development and the maturation
of function (Clemente et al., 2012; Morgan et al., 2013).
The normal balance of gut microbiota is also of great
importance to the health of the host (Eloe-Fadrosh and
Rasko, 2013). Many diseases, including cardiovascular,
metabolic, autoimmune, neurodevelopment, and even
psychiatric disorders, have been shown to be correlated
with gut microbiota dysbiosis (Wang et al., 2011;
Bekkering et al., 2013; Moloney et al., 2014; Wang and
Kasper, 2014; Borre et al., 2014b).
Most researchers regard microbiota–gut–brain axis as
the bidirectional communication pathway between brain
and gut bacteria (Cryan and O’Mahony, 2011; Grenham
et al., 2011; Borre et al., 2014a). The main pathways of
microbiota–gut–brain axis are nerve routes (including
vagus nerve, neurotransmitters, and neurogenesis),
endocrine routes, and immune routes (Desbonnet et al.,
2008b; Ochoa-Reparaz et al., 2010a; Bravo et al., 2011;
Sudo, 2014; Ogbonnaya et al., 2015). Interestingly, these
routes are also involved in the pathophysiology of major
depression. The brain neurogenesis (especially in the hip-
pocampus) and the brain-derived neurotrophic factor
(BDNF) levels are reduced in depression patients
(Marije aan het Rot et al., 2009). The monoamine neuro-
transmitters deficiency is an important cause of depres-
sion and a most common antidepressant treatment
target (Hamon and Blier, 2013). The hypothalamic–pitui
tary–adrenal (HPA) system is disturbed and stress hor-
mones are hyper-secreted in patients with severe depres-
sion (Barden, 2004). Inflammation is another character of
depression, the proinflammatory cytokines levels (includ-
ing IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) and IFN-c)
are usually enhanced while the anti-inflammatory cytoki-
nes (like interleukin-10 (IL-10)) are usually reduced
(Schiepers et al., 2005; Rook and Lowry, 2008). Through
the microbiota–gut–brain axis, the brain can influence gut
bacteria by modulating gut physiological status, and the
composition and variation of intestinal microbiota can
change the central nervous system and behavior (Rhee
et al., 2009; Foster, 2013; Montiel-Castro et al., 2013).
Pathogenic bacteria like C. rodentium and Campylobacter
jejuni infection increased anxiety-like behavior and
caused memory dysfunction (Lyte et al., 2006; Goehler
et al., 2008; Gareau et al., 2011). Probiotics like some
LB species and some Bifidobacterium species administra-
tion caused improvement in the host (Desbonnet et al.,
2008b, 2010; Bercik et al., 2010, 2011; Bravo
et al., 2011; Arseneault-Breard et al., 2012; Davari
et al., 2013; Savignac et al., 2014, 2015). Probiotics are
defined as ‘‘live microorganisms which when adminis-
tered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on
the host” (FAO and WHO, 2001).
LB species are one of the most important types of
probiotics (Ljungh and Wadstro
¨m, 2006). In the same time,
genus LB is widely distributed on inner and outer surfaces
of the human body and throughout the entire digestive tract
(Human Microbiome Project, 2012b; Russo et al., 2014). It
is an essential member of gut microbiota and plays great
role in host health (Evaldson et al., 1982; Ljungh and
¨m, 2006; Clemente et al., 2012; Vyas and
Ranganathan, 2012; Human Microbiome Project, 2012b;
Eloe-Fadrosh and Rasko, 2013). For this reason, scientists
have paid a considerable amount of attention to the thera-
peutic effect that probiotics have on many kinds of diseases,
such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel dis-
eases, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatic
encephalopathy, and autism (O’Mahony et al., 2005;
Malaguarnera et al., 2007; Barouei et al., 2009; Kaur
et al., 2009; Rao et al., 2009; Ho
¨rmannsperger and Haller,
2010; Critchfield et al., 2011; Davari et al., 2013; Quigley
and Shanahan, 2014). During these studies, a few studies
have shown that ingestion of some LB strains could not only
rescue disorders but also attenuate emotional behavior and
impairment of cognition (Sullivan et al., 2009; Bravo et al.,
2011; Arseneault-Breard et al., 2012; Davari et al., 2013).
NS8 is a subspecies of Lactobacillus helveticus strain iso-
lated and identified by our own laboratory. It has been pro-
ven to attenuate anxiety and to improve cognition in
hyperammonemia rats (Luo et al., 2014), making similar
behavioral and cognition improving effects like other L. hel-
veticus strains (Messaoudi et al., 2011; Ohland et al., 2013;
Ohsawa et al., 2015).
Considering the modulation effects of some probiotics in
mood and cognition (Cryan and Dinan, 2012; Collins and
Bercik, 2013; Ohland et al., 2013; Tillisch et al., 2013;
Distrutti et al., 2014; Rook et al., 2014; Borre et al.,
2014a), it was here hypothesized that ingestion of some
LB species could decrease anxiety-like and depressive-
like behavior and promote cognition in depression. In order
to assess these effects, the effects of L. helveticus NS8
administration during stress were analyzed in rats with
citalopram (CIT) as a positive control. Anxiety-like behavior
was detected by open-field testing and an elevated plus
maze (EPM). Depressive-like behavior and cognitive func-
tion were assessed by modified sucrose preference test
(SPT), object recognition test (ORT), and object placement
test (OPT). To determine how L. helveticus NS8 influences
mood and cognition, plasma stress hormones, plasma
cytokines, and brain monoamine neurotransmitters were
also measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
(ELISA) kits. Brain BDNF mRNA expression was measured
using real-time PCR.
Adult male specific-pathogen-free (SPF) Sprague–
Dawley rats (weighing 220–240 g) were purchased from
Vital River Laboratories. Rats were individually housed
562 S. Liang et al. /Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577
during the experiment under standard laboratory
conditions (12/12 h light/dark cycle, lights on at 07:00 h;
22–24 °C, 40–60% humidity). After two weeks of
accommodation, rats were randomly divided into four
groups: control group (CON, n= 8), chronic restraint
stress group (CRS, n= 8), Lactobacillus group (LAC,
n= 8, given supplemental L. helveticus NS8), and
citalopram group (CIT, n= 8, given CIT hydrobromide).
In the CRS experiment (Fig. 1), rats (24/32) were
restrained in polypropylene cylinders (6 cm inner
diameter, with air vents at the nasal end of the cylinder
and length adjusted for each rat) 6 h/d for three weeks.
Body weight was measured every two days during the
stress paradigm. The entire experimental protocol was
approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use
Committee of the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese
Academy of Sciences.
NS Lactobacillus and CIT administration
The L. helveticus NS8 strain was isolated from natural
fermented dairy from Mongolia grasslands in the
present laboratory. It was inoculated into MRS media
and incubated three times at 37 °C for 18 h each. Then
the L. helveticus NS8 strain was extracted by
centrifugation at 3000 rpm for 5 min and washed twice
with PBS buffer. The strain was resuspended in drinking
water at a concentration of 10
CFU/ml. The drinking
water was changed every day.
Using the serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitor CIT as
positive control was very common in depression-related
researches (Desbonnet et al., 2010; Malkesman et al.,
2012). In the present study, the method of drug adminis-
tration was similar to Desbonnet 2010 (Desbonnet et al.,
2010). CIT hydrobromide (manufactured by H. Lundbeck
A/S. Copenhagen-DK and repackaged by Xian-Janssen
Pharmaceutical Ltd., Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China)
was administered at a dose of 30 mg/kg body weight in
the drinking water of each rat. Water intake was moni-
tored 1 week prior to drug dosing and throughout the
experiment. Every two days, the quantity of CIT dissolved
in the drinking water was adjusted according to fluid
intake and body weight in order to maintain a 30 mg/kg
dosage throughout the experimental period.
Both LB and CIT were administrated until the
termination of the experiment.
Behavioral testing
SPT. The day after the stress period, all subjects
underwent behavioral testing. A modified version of
SPT, as described by Huynh et al. was used on day 21
after the end of restraint stress (Huynh et al., 2011).
The baseline SP contained a 5-day protocol. On the first
2 days, rats were given two bottles of tap water in the
home cage. On the third and fourth days, one of the
bottles of water was replaced by 1% sucrose solution.
On the fifth day, rats were deprived of food and water
for 6 h and then allowed one bottle of tap water and one
bottle of 1% sucrose solution to drink freely. The con-
sumption of tap water and 1% sucrose solution was
recorded over the following 1 h. The positions of these
bottles were counterbalanced across rats and switched
during the test. The second SPT replicated the fifth day
protocol. Sucrose preference was tested for 1 h after the
end of restraint stress. Sucrose preference is expressed
as the relative amount of 1% sucrose consumption over
the total water consumption (the sum of 1% sucrose con-
sumption and tap water consumption).
EPM. On day 22, anxiety-related behavior was
assessed using EPM. The plus maze consists of two
opposite open arms (50 * 10 cm) and two opposite
closed arms (50 * 10 * 40 cm) connected by a 10-cm
square center, elevated 70 cm above the floor and
located in an appropriate observation room. The test
was performed under dim light conditions. Rats were
placed in the central area with their heads toward the
open arms. Rats were allowed to move freely for 5 min.
Their behavior was recorded by a CCD camera on an
IBM computer with ANYMAZE software. The number of
entries to open and closed arms and the time spent in
each arm were recorded automatically. After each rat
was tested, the EPM was cleaned with a 10% ethanol
solution in order to avoid interference in subsequent
tests from the animal’s odors or residues.
Open-field test (OFT). On day 23, rats were
introduced to an open-field apparatus (50 * 50 * 50 cm)
to measure anxiety-like behavior. Their behavior was
monitored for 5 min using a CCD camera. The images
were captured on an IBM computer with Image
ANYMAZE software. The distance traveled and the time
spent in central area (12.5 * 12.5 cm) were both
calculated automatically. The apparatus was cleaned
after each trial as in the EPM.
ORT and OPT. Memory was assessed using an ORT
on day 24 and OPT on day 25. All trials were conducted in
the open field apparatus. And the specific procedures
referred published researches (Beck and Luine, 2002;
Bowman et al., 2006). Each trial contained a sample trial
(T1) and a recognition trial (T2). The T1 was the same
across all tests but T2 differed between ORT and OPT.
Fig. 1. Brief schema for chronic restraint stress treatment and Lactobacillus and citalopram intervention. SPT: sucrose preference test; OFT:
open-field test; EPM: elevated plus-maze test; ORT: object recognition test; OPT: object placement test.
S. Liang et al. /Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577 563
The interval between T1 and T2 was 3 h in both tests. In
T1, two identical objects were placed at one end of the
open field and amount of time spent exploring the two
objects was recorded for 3 min. In T2 of ORT, one of
the objects was replaced with a different object and the
time spent exploring the old one (familiar object) and the
new (novel) object was recorded for 3 min. The relative
amount of time spent exploring the novel object over the
total exploration time during T2 served as an index of
object recognition. During T2 of OPT, one of these two
objects was placed in a new location. Then the time spent
exploring both objects, either in the new location or in the
old location, was recorded for 3 min. The relative amount
of time spent exploring the novel location over the total
exploration time during T2 served as an index of place-
ment recognition. Exploration was defined as when the
rat sniffed at, whisked at, or looked at the object from
no more than 2 cm away. The objects used for trials were
toy blocks of different shapes. The novel object was coun-
terbalanced across treatment. The field and all objects
were thoroughly cleaned with a 10% ethanol solution both
between T1 and T2 for individual animals and between
separate trials for each animal.
Animal termination and tissue dissection
On day 26, rats were quickly killed by decapitation, and
trunk blood samples were collected into pre-trilled
EDTA-coated tubes. Tubes were then centrifuged at
3000gat 4 °C for 10 min. The plasma was aspirated
and stored at 80 °C until further analysis. Whole brains
were rapidly removed and placed on ice-cold plates.
Then the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus,
were quickly dissected, frozen in liquid nitrogen and
stored in 80 °C for further analysis.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
Plasma cytokines and stress hormones were common
biological indexes in chronic restraint stress model
(Naert et al., 2011; Voorhees et al., 2013). In the present
experiment, levels of plasma cytokines (including IL-10,
interferon-gama (INF-c), TNF-a) and stress hormones
corticosterone (CORT) and adrenocorticotropic hormone
(ACTH) were all measured using ELISA kits (Cusabio
Biotech Co., Ltd., Wuhan, China), according to the manu-
facturer’s instructions.
The PFC and hippocampus were two crucial parts for
cognition and mood regulation (Marije aan het Rot et al.,
2009; Duman and Duman, 2015). And the monoamine
transmitters’ content and BDNF mRNA expression in
these regions were often detected in animal behavior
studies (Desbonnet et al., 2010; Naert et al., 2011;
O’Mahony et al., 2011; Chiba et al., 2012). In the present
experiment, the right PFC and right hippocampus sam-
ples were homogenized in phosphate-buffered saline
(0.1 mol L
) on ice. The homogenate was centrifuged
(3500 rpm for 10, at 4 °C). The supernatants were aspi-
rated and stored at 80 °C until further analysis. Monoa-
mine neurotransmitters including 5-HT, norepinephrine
(NE), and dopamine (DA) in the supernatants were also
detected using ELISA kits (Cusabio Biotech Co., Ltd.,
Wuhan, China), according to the manufacturer’s
Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction
The total RNA in the left PFC and left hippocampus was
isolated using TRNzol reagent according to the
manufacturer’s instructions (Tiangen Biotech Co. Ltd.,
Beijing, China). Then the RNA samples were converted
to double-stranded cDNA using a TIANScript Reverse
Transcription Kit (Tiangen Biotech Co. Ltd., Beijing,
China). The cDNA samples collected were used in
subsequently qPCR for measurement of mRNA
expressions of GADPH (housekeeping gene, forward
reaction was performed in an Applied Biosystems7300
system using SYBRÒPremix Ex Taq
(Takara Bio,
Japan). Using the 7300 SDS software, the relative
quantification of each sample was analyzed and each
mean 2
was calculated later. The BDNF mRNA
expression is presented as percentage related to
Statistical analysis
All data were presented as mean ± SEM. The body
weight data were analyzed by a repeated measures
analysis of variance (ANOVA). Other data were
analyzed by a one-way ANOVA. And the gene
expression data were logarithmic transformed before
ANOVA because of the heterogeneity of variance.
Tukey HSD testing was used for the post hoc test. A
correlation analysis was performed between behavioral
results and biological outcomes using Pearson’s
correlation coefficient (r
). Differences were considered
statistically significant when P< 0.05.
Body weight
The body weight was measured every two days from day
0 to day 21. Repeated measures ANOVA found a
significant effect of time (F(11,328) = 400.237, P<
0.001), time * treatment (F(33,308) = 15.975, P< 0.001),
and group (F(3,28) = 3.769, P= 0.02). Then one-way
ANOVA and post hoc test found chronic restraint stress
retarded the body weight growing from day 8 compared
to CON, while LB and CIT treatment could not promote
body weight gain, see Table 1.
The SPT was conducted on day 21 after the end of
restraint stress. ANOVA indicated significant differences
between four groups with respect to sucrose
consumption (F(3,28) = 9.68, P< 0.001) (Fig. 2). Post
hoc analyses revealed that the CRS group consumed
564 S. Liang et al. /Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577
less sucrose solution than the control group (P=0.001),
LAC group (P= 0.001) and CIT group (P= 0.001).
Chronic restraint stress influenced anxiety behavior in
EPM on day22 (Fig. 3), for time spent in open arms
F(3,28) = 5.789, P= 0.003, for open arm entries F(3,28) =
3.920, P= 0.019 and for closed arm entries F(3,28) =
7.276, P= 0.001. The CRS group rats entered the open
arms fewer times (P= 0.019) than control rats did. Rats
given L. helveticus NS8 stayed longer in open arms
than CRS rats (P= 0.017). And rats administrated with
CIT entries more times in closed arms than other groups.
In the OFT on day 23, chronic restraint stress also
affected rats
performance in center area (time in center
area F(3,28) = 3.089, P= 0.043; distance traveled in
the center area F(3,28) = 7.82, P= 0.001). As shown
in Fig. 4D, C, the CRS group stayed less time in the
center area (P= 0.03) and traveled less distance in
center area (P= 0.001) than the control group.
Ingestion of L. helveticus NS8 was associated with
more distance traveled in the center area (P= 0.002)
than in the CRS group. Administration of CIT did not
show any influence on behavior in the OFT.
Fig. 5A, B shows performance of rats in ORT. In ORT on
day 24, the four groups presented different exploration
patterns (F(3,27) = 4.802, P= 0.008). Chronic restraint
stress decreased the percentage of time exploring new
object compared to the control (P= 0.039). L. helveticus
NS8 was associated with more object exploration than in
the CRS groups (P= 0.025). CIT treatment showed no
effect in ORT.
Fig. 5C, D shows the performance of rats in OPTs on
day 25. There were significant differences between the
four groups in placement recognition (F(3,27) = 6.191,
P= 0.002). Post hoc tests showed that the CRS group
spent less time exploring the object in novel location
than control rats (P= 0.024), while LB and CIT groups
both showed more novel location exploration time than
the CRS group (P= 0.002 and P= 0.048, respectively).
Plasma CORT and ACTH levels
To elucidate the molecular basis of these behavioral
changes, we first measured the stress hormones in
plasma (Fig. 6). The four groups showed significant
differences in both CORT (F(3,28) = 18.905, P< 0.001)
and ACTH (F(3,28) = 9.559, P< 0.001) levels. The CRS
rats showed higher CORT (P= 0.011) and ACTH
(P= 0.02) levels than control rats. Administration of L.
helveticus NS8 was associated with lower CORT levels
and ACTH levels than in the CRS group (P<0.001 and
P= 0.019, respectively). Administration of CIT showed no
effect on either CORT or ACTH levels.
Plasma cytokines
The plasma pro-inflammatory cytokines IFN-cand TNF-a
and anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 were also detected
to evaluate the inflammatory situation (Fig. 7). A one-
way ANOVA displayed significant differences across
Table 1. Chronic restraint stress retarded the body weight growth
0 339.38 ± 6.28 344.25 ± 10.05 342.5 ± 6.83 340.88 ± 6.10
2 349 ± 7.64 338.25 ± 10.57 335.13 ± 6.65 327.75 ± 6.92
4 357.63 ± 7.18 340.13 ± 10.92 337.88 ± 6.45 331.13 ± 7.04
6 368 ± 7.61 343.13 ± 11.41 339.88 ± 5.49 335.25 ± 6.62
8 375.88 ± 7.65 344.38 ± 10.72*342.88 ± 5.69 337.88 ± 6.31
10 387.88 ± 7.91 351.13 ± 11.71
349 ± 6.34 346.88 ± 6.74
12 393 ± 8.31 354.88 ± 12.08
354.5 ± 6.76 352.38 ± 6.62
14 397.13 ± 8.73 357.63 ± 11.58
356.88 ± 7.26 359.13 ± 6.74
16 405.88 ± 9.21 364.63 ± 11.98
362 ± 7.28 364.63 ± 6.92
18 413.63 ± 9.27 365.25 ± 11.8
366.13 ± 7.4 367.25 ± 6.43
20 417.5 ± 8.79 366.25 ± 11.78
368.63 ± 6.77 372.63 ± 7.49
25 431.13 ± 10.57 389.88 ± 13.73
394.88 ± 8.90 390.88 ± 7.32
The body weight changes of four groups during the experiment are shown in the above table. All values are expressed as mean ± SEM. Groups:
N= 8/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01 compared to the control.
Fig. 2. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation increased
sucrose preferences in SPT as citalopram intervention did. Depres-
sion-related sucrose preferences were presented in the above figure.
All values are expressed as mean ± SEM. N= 8/group.
P< 0.01.
S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577 565
groups in IL-10 content (F(3,28) = 19.263, P< 0.001),
IFN-ccontent (F(3,28) = 11.703, P< 0.001) and TNF-a
content (F(3,28) = 13.152, P< 0.001). As shown in
Fig. 7, chronic restraint stress increased IFN-c
(P= 0.003) levels and TNF-a(P= 0.05) levels,
decreased IL-10 levels (P=0.002) compared to the
control group. Although L. helveticus NS8 supplementation
did not change the IFN-cand TNF-alevels, it was
associated with higher IL-10 levels (P< 0.001) than in
the CRS group. Although CIT intervention did not
influence IL-10 levels it did reduce IFN-c(P= 0.004)
and TNF-a(P< 0.001) levels.
Fig. 3. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation increased time spent in open arms in EPM while citalopram intervention did not. The anxiety-
related behaviors in the elevated plus maze are shown in the above figure. Panel A, panel C and panel E show the time spent in open arms, closed
arms and center areas individually. Panel B and panel D show the entries in open arms and closed arms respectively. All values are expressed as
mean ± SEM. N= 8/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01.
566 S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577
The BDNF mRNA expression in the PFC and
hippocampus were measured to explain cognition-
related changes (Fig. 8). A one-way ANOVA after
logarithmic transformation (Log 10) showed the mRNA
expression to have significant differences in the
hippocampus (F(3,8) = 16.582, P= 0.001). Post hoc
testing showed that chronic restraint stress rendered
BDNF mRNA expression in the hippocampus
(P= 0.003) lower than in the control group, and L.
helveticus NS8 and CIT was associated with more
BDNF mRNA expression (P= 0.024 and P= 0.001,
respectively) in the hippocampus than in the CRS group.
Brain monoamine neurotransmitters
The anxiety and depression-related neurotransmitters
5-HT, DA, and NE were also detected. As shown in
Fig. 9, chronic restraint stress not only changed NE
levels in the PFC (F(3,28) = 8.951, P< 0.001) and
hippocampus (F(3,28) = 8.074, P< 0.001). It also
influenced hippocampus 5-HT levels (F(3,28) = 6.392,
P= 0.002). The NE levels in the PFC (P= 0.018) and
hippocampus (P= 0.001) and the 5-HT levels in the
hippocampus (P= 0.019) were all lower in the CRS
group than in the control group. While the NE levels in
the hippocampus (P= 0.006) and 5-HT levels in
hippocampus (P= 0.002) were both higher in the LAC
group than in the CRS group. CIT administration
showed significantly higher 5-HT levels in both the PFC
(P= 0.013) and hippocampus (P= 0.01) than in the
CRS group, but it did not affect NE levels.
The correlations between behavioral results and
biological outcomes are shown in Fig. 10. The sucrose
preferences in SPT were positively correlated with
hippocampus 5-HT content (r
= 0.603, P< 0.001).
The time in open arms in EPM was negatively
correlated with plasma CORT (r
=0.448, P= 0.01)
and ACTH (r
=0.441, P= 0.019) levels. The
distance traveled in the center in OFT was positively
correlated with hippocampus NE content (r
= 0.441,
P= 0.012). The time spent with new objects in ORT
was negatively correlated with plasma CORT
=0.499, P= 0.004) and ACTH (r
P= 0.024) levels while positively correlated with plasma
IL-10 content (r
= 0.467, P= 0.008) and hippocampus
NE content (r
= 0.59, P< 0.001).
The present study confirmed and expanded upon
previous findings demonstrating behavior and cognition
Fig. 4. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation increased distance traveled in center in OFT while citalopram intervention did not. The
anxiety-related behaviors in the open field test are shown in the above figure. Panel A and panel B show the distance traveled in entire area and in
center respectively. Panel C shows the mean speed of rats. Panel D shows the time spent in center area. All values are expressed as
mean ± SEM. N= 8/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01.
S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577 567
changes in adult rats subjected to chronic restraint stress.
After 3–4 weeks of chronic restraint stress (2–6 h/day),
rats showed less body weight gain, more anxiety-like
behavior (less time spent in aversive arms in EPM
and less distance traveled in aversive areas in OFT),
more depressive-like behavior (less sucrose solution
consumption in SPT), and memory impairment (less
novel object exploration time in ORT and less novel
location exploration time in OPT) (Beck and Luine,
2002; Bowman et al., 2003; Ferraz et al., 2011; Huynh
et al., 2011). These behavioral and cognitive aberra-
tions were paralleled by biochemical alterations including
higher levels of stress hormones and pro-inflammatory
cytokines levels in plasma, lower levels of anti-inflammatory
Fig. 5. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation made better improvement than citalopram intervention in memory recognition tests. The
behaviors of rats in object recognition test and placement recognition test are shown in the above figure. Panel A and panel B show the total time
spent with the two objects and the relative amount of time exploring new object in ORT. Panel C and panel D show the total time spent in the two
placements and the percentages of time exploring new placement in OPT. All values are expressed as mean ± SEM. N= 7–8/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01.
Fig. 6. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation reduced plasma stress hormones content while citalopram intervention did not. Plasma
CORT (Panel A) and ACTH (panel B) levels are shown in the above graphs. All values are expressed as mean ± SEM. N= 8/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01,
P< 0.001.
568 S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577
cytokines in plasma (Ferraz et al., 2011; Voorhees et al.,
2013), less 5-HT and NE content in the brain, and lower
BDNF content (or BDNF mRNA levels) in the hippocam-
pus (O’Mahony et al., 2011; Radahmadi et al., 2015).
Most of the abnormalities resulting from chronic restraint
stress were attenuated by chronic supplementation of
probiotic L. helveticus NS8 or antidepressant CIT. These
results support the current hypothesis that chronic
L. helveticus NS8 supplementation can counteract
chronic stress-induced behavioral, cognitive, and bio-
chemical aberrations as well as many antidepressants.
The physiological and behavioral responses to chronic
restraint stress may be mediated by the brain–gut–micro
biota axis. The endocrine, immune, and nervous
systems and each pathway of the brain–gut–microbiota
axis were activated to deal with chronic stress (Dinan
and Cryan, 2012; Mahar et al., 2014; Moloney et al.,
2014). The long-lasting exaggeration of HPA activity,
the chronic inflammation, the persistent disruption of brain
neurotransmitters, and the decrease in BDNF were all
detrimental to heath, driving the depression pathogenesis
(Schiepers et al., 2005; Belmaker and Agam, 2008; Marin
et al., 2011; Gold, 2014).
Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical (HPA) activation
is one of the most important parts of stress response
(Swaab et al., 2005). Both human and murine subjects
release more stress hormones after chronic stress.
Long-term increases in stress hormones suggest the fail-
ure of HPA axis negative feedback under the etiology of
depression (Barden, 2004; Swaab et al., 2005; Lupien
et al., 2009). In the present experiment, plasma CORT
and ACTH levels were both correlated with anxiety-like
behavior in EPM. Probiotic supplementation has been
found to regulate the HPA axis function both in early
age and in adulthood (Sudo et al., 2005; Eutamene and
Bueno, 2007; Gareau et al., 2007). The present results
demonstrated the modulatory effects of L. helveticus
NS8 to restore circulating CORT levels like other probi-
otics, such as Bifidobacterium infantis,Lactobacillus
rhamnosus strain R0011 (95%) and L. helveticus strain
R0052 (5%), L. rhamnosus (JB-1), and Lactobacillus
farciminis (Sudo et al., 2005; Gareau et al., 2007; Bravo
et al., 2011; Ait-Belgnaoui et al., 2012). But we also found
the CORT levels of control group were higher compared
to other studies (Naert et al., 2011). This was possibly
because the control rats were also deprived of food and
water during restraint time and food and water deprivation
could increase CORT levels on their own (Tannock and
Savage, 1974).
The immune system is also involved in the stress
response. Sustained stress exposure can induce
maladaptive inflammation (Gold, 2014). The pro-
inflammatory and anti-inflammatory balance is dysregu-
lated, and the entire immune response moves toward
inflammation, as demonstrated by the increase in the
release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decrease in
the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines (Schiepers
et al., 2005; Rook and Lowry, 2008; Gold, 2014). Levels
Fig. 7. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation promoted
plasma IL-10 release while citalopram intervention promoted IFN-c
and TNF-arelease. The plasma cytokines content are shown in
theabove graphs. Plasma IL-10 levels (Panel A), IFN-clevels (Panel
B) and TNF-alevels (Panel C) are shown in the three graphs given
above. All values are expressed as mean ± SEM. N= 8/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01,
P< 0.001.
Fig. 8. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation increased
BDNF mRNA expression in hippocampus as citalopram intervention
did. The BDNF mRNA expression in prefrontal cortex and hippocam-
pus are shown in the above graph. All values are expressed as mean
± SEM. N= 3/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01.
S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577 569
of pro-inflammatory cytokines (including IL-6, TNF-a, and
IFN-c) usually increase after chronic restraint stress, and
the levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines (like IL-10) tend
to decrease (Ferraz et al., 2011; Voorhees et al., 2013).
It was suggested that the immune regulation of probiotics
maybe correlated with IL-10 (Ochoa-Reparaz et al.,
2010a,b; Ohland et al., 2013). The present experiment
showed L. helveticus NS8 increased IL-10 release while
CIT decreased IFN-cand TNF-alevels, indicating different
mechanisms underlying the two treatments. This immune
regulatory effect of NS8 was consistent with that observed
in other studies of L. helveticus strain (Ohland et al.,
The hippocampus, one of several brain regions
related to behavior and cognition regulation, was
impaired after chronic stress (Marije aan het Rot et al.,
2009). Chronic restraint stress could induce hippocampus
impairment like neuronal loss, dendritic retraction, and
BDNF content reduction (McLaughlin et al., 2007;
Takuma et al., 2007; O’Mahony et al., 2011). While BDNF
was critical for neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, both
of which were necessary to maintain hippocampus mor-
phology and function (Marije aan het Rot et al., 2009;
Lu et al., 2014). And the BDNF decrease was associated
with neuronal loss and could even induce hippocampus
atrophy which was very common in major depression
(Belmaker and Agam, 2008) while long time antidepres-
sant treatment could increase neurogenesis and BDNF
levels (Vaidya et al., 2007; Belmaker and Agam, 2008).
Moreover, hippocampus neurogenesis regulation was
also connected with gut microbiota (Gareau et al.,
2011). Germ-free mice exhibited increased adult hip-
pocampus neurogenesis compared to conventionally col-
onized mice (Ogbonnaya et al., 2015). The BDNF content
or BDNF mRNA levels reduction was possibly associated
with cognition impairment and the increase in depressive-
like behavior (Mehrpouya et al., 2014; Radahmadi et al.,
2015). Thus the antidepressant effect (sucrose consump-
tion increase) and spatial memory improvement (novel
location exploration time increase in OPT) of L. helveticus
NS8 and CIT was possibly reached by restoring BDNF
levels in hippocampus. Many probiotics were found to
have the potential of regulation BDNF levels, such as
L. helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175
(Ait-Belgnaoui et al., 2014; Distrutti et al., 2014). Since
the BDNF content was greatly influenced by HPA activity
and monoamine transmission (Vaidya et al., 2007; Mahar
et al., 2014), the restoration of BDNF content maybe
related to the normalized stress hormones levels and
monoamine content (5-HT and NE). And the present
results also demonstrated that only L. helveticus NS8
administration increased novel object exploration time in
ORT, which might be correlated with its regulation to
plasma stress hormones, IL-10 and hippocampus NE
5-HT and NE are crucial neurotransmitters of mood
and cognition regulation. Balances of both are easily
disturbed by chronic stress (Hamon and Blier, 2013).
The 5-HT and NE levels in the PFC and hippocampus
were decreased which might be connected with the
behavioral aberrations caused by chronic restraint stress
(Bowman et al., 2009; O’Mahony et al., 2011). In the pre-
sent study, the hippocampus 5-HT content was correlated
with depressive-like behavior in SPT while hippocampus
NE content was correlated with anxiety-like behavior in
OFT and recognition preference in ORT. Gut flora were
found to influence the serotonergic system in the
hippocampus (Clarke et al., 2013). Gut bacteria could
also affect catecholamine system. They could recognize
catecholamine signals and perform adaptive activities to
allow their populations to flourish; this affected the host
(Freestone et al., 2008; Sudo, 2014). In this way, the
antidepressant effects of L. helveticus NS8 may be
caused by the recovery of 5-HT content in the hippocam-
pus, which was similar to the results of selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) therapy. Since CIT administra-
tion did not affect behavior (in OFT and ORT) and NE
content, the anti-anxiety and cognition improving effects
in ORT of L. helveticus NS8 might be related to the
restoration of NE content in the hippocampus. Both Bifi-
dobacterium strains and LB strains were found to reduce
the rate of anxiety-like and depressive-like behavior and
promote memory in both rodent models and human stud-
ies (Sullivan et al., 2009; Desbonnet et al., 2010; Bercik
et al., 2011; Bravo et al., 2011; Messaoudi et al., 2011;
Arseneault-Breard et al., 2012; Davari et al., 2013;
Ohland et al., 2013; Tillisch et al., 2013; Ait-Belgnaoui
et al., 2014; Distrutti et al., 2014). However, only one
study showed probiotics to have a therapeutic effect in a
depression model. This model used B. infantis in a rat
maternal separation model (Desbonnet et al., 2010).
Fig. 9. Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 supplementation increased both
5-HT and NE content in hippocampus while citalopram intervention
just increased 5-HT content. The monoamine neurotransmitters in
prefrontal cortex and hippocampus are shown in the above graphs.
Panels A and B show 5-HT, DA, and NE levels in the prefrontal cortex
and hippocampus respectively. All values are expressed as mean
± SEM. N= 8/group.
P< 0.05,
P< 0.01.
570 S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577
Fig. 10. The behavioral results were correlated with relevant biological outcomes. Panel A shows the correlation between sucrose preferences and
hippocampus 5-HT content. Panel B and panel C show the correlation between time in open arms in EPM and plasma CORT and ACTH levels.
Panel D shows the correlation between distance traveled in center in OFT and hippocampus NE content. Panel E, panel F, panel G and panel H
show the correlation between time spend with new object in ORT and plasma CORT, plasma ACTH, plasma IL-10 and hippocampus NE content,
S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577 571
Although the behavior modulation effect has been
described in detail, the physiological and biochemical
mechanisms under therapeutic conditions remain
The reduction in 5-HT synthesis is widely thought to
play a causative role in the etiology of major depression.
Increasing 5-HT content in synaptic cleft is one of the
commonest targets in depression treatment (Marije aan
het Rot et al., 2009). CIT is a frequently used antidepres-
sant aiming at inhibiting the reuptake of 5-HT without influ-
ence in other neurotransmitters (Hyttel, 1982). In the
present study, CIT treatment increased sucrose prefer-
ence in SPT, improved placement recognition in OPT,
decreased IFN-cand TNF-alevels in plasma, improved
hippocampus BDNF mRNA expression and increased 5-
HT content in the PFC and hippocampus, curing most
of the abnormalities in chronic restraint stress depression
model. The similar behavioral and biochemical correction
effect of LB treatment indicated the 5-HT system was also
involved in its therapy. L. helveticus NS8 treatment was
demonstrated to regulate 5-HT and its synthesis in the
hyperammonemia rat (Luo et al., 2014). In the present
study, the restoration of 5-HT content may be related to
the enhancement of tryptophan availability (Desbonnet
et al., 2008a; Borre et al., 2014a). The brain 5-HT content
is positively correlated with its precursor tryptophan
levels. However, tryptophan can also degrade into
kynurenine. This process can be catalyzed by either
indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) or tryptophan-2,3-
dioxygenase (TDO). Inflammation can accelerate IDO
activity and CORT can accelerate TDO activity. Both
can facilitate tryptophan catabolism through kynurenine
pathway, rendering tryptophan less available (Le Floc’h
et al., 2011; Maes et al., 2011; O’Mahony et al., 2014).
Improving inflammation and reducing CORT release can
decrease tryptophan consumption, leaving more trypto-
phan available for synthesis of 5-HT (Le Floc’h et al.,
2011; O’Mahony et al., 2014). It was possible that L. hel-
veticus NS8 restored hippocampus 5-HT levels by
increasing tryptophan availability by regulating the
immune response (enhancing IL-10 release) and HPA
axis function (reducing CORT and ACTH levels).
Orally administered L. helveticus NS8 can modulate
host behavior and biochemical aberrations through all
the three pathways of the brain–gut–microbiota axis. By
reducing CORT release to regulate the function of the
HPA axis, increasing anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10
levels to correct the immune imbalance, and restoring 5-
HT, NE, and BDNF levels to mitigate brain injury, L.
helveticus NS8 supplementation normalized most of the
behavioral and cognitive abnormalities caused by
chronic restraint stress. The anti-depression effect may
relate to the restoration of hippocampus 5-HT content
and BDNF mRNA expression. The anti-anxiety effect
may correlate with the reduction of plasma stress
hormones release and the restoration of hippocampus
NE content. The cognition improvement effect in ORT
may connect with the reduction of plasma stress
hormones release and the restoration of plasma IL-10
content and hippocampus NE content. All of these
pathways are key physiological mechanisms in
depression treatment, indicating that L. helveticus NS8
may be a suitable alternative therapy for depression.
The present data suggest that probiotics may regulate
host behavior and biochemistry through many pathways
and that these pathways may be coordinated with each
Although we achieved meaningful and improving
results in the present study, it was still an exploratory
study and the experimental design was not perfect.
Firstly, for animals grouping, although previous
researches demonstrated that L. helveticus NS8
treatment had only beneficial effects (Luo et al., 2014)
and CIT was a good antidepressant (Hyttel, 1982;
Desbonnet et al., 2010), it would be better if both treat-
ments had their own control groups. Secondly, for behav-
ior tests, the EPM could be executed after the OFT.
Although 5 min of OFT was often used for anxiety-like
behavior measurement (Bellani et al., 2006; Babri et al.,
2014), the locomotor activity data would be more accurate
if the test lasted longer than 5 min. Although the recogni-
tion memory tasks were useful measurements in animal
spatial memory and non-spatial memory (Bowman
et al., 2006; Luine, 2015), other cognition tests with longer
time and more trials could be used in future study. Thirdly,
for animal numbers, although eight rats per group were
effective in the present study, more rats would be better
to reduce individual errors and to find treatment differ-
ences. Lastly, for sex differences, in animal experiments,
the behavior of adult female rats was influenced by estrus
cycle while the male rats’ behavior was relatively stable
(Marcondes et al., 2001; Sayin et al., 2014). But the
female rats should not be ignored since male and female
rats made different responses to certain stressful proce-
dures (Bowman et al., 2003, 2006, 2009; Dalla et al.,
2005). Thus further studies should find out whether there
are sex differences in this treatment. In a word, more
studies are needed to illustrate how L. helveticus NS8
treatment works in depression and whether it works for
other kinds mental disorders.
In summary, this study provides preliminary evidence that
chronic treatment with probiotic L. helveticus NS8 can
have anxiolytic and antidepressant effects, promote
cognition, decrease plasma CORT and ACTH levels,
modulate pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory
balance, and restore 5-HT, NE, and BDNF content in
the hippocampus, inducing an effect similar to that of
SSRI. Ever since Logan proposed probiotics as an
adjuvant therapy for major depression in 2005 (Logan
and Katzman, 2005), many scientists have thought about
this issue deeply (Cryan and Dinan, 2012; Rook et al.,
2012, 2014; Borre et al., 2014a; Dash et al., 2015).
Dinan et al. (2013) proposed ’psychobiotics’ to emphasize
the potential therapy effects of probiotics in mental illness
(Dinan et al., 2013). In the present study, NS8 showed the
potential as one of the ’psychobiotics’ in treatment of
depression. So far, there are several studies exploring
and speculating on how gut bacteria influence brain and
behavior (Forsythe et al., 2010; Cryan and O’Mahony,
572 S. Liang et al. / Neuroscience 310 (2015) 561–577
2011; Al-Asmakh et al., 2012; Cryan and Dinan, 2012;
Montiel-Castro et al., 2013; Farmer et al., 2014; Fond
et al., 2014; Tillisch, 2014; Wang and Kasper, 2014), even
extending the treatment to other mental disorders such as
autism spectrum disorder, obsessive–compulsive disor-
der, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (Critchfield
et al., 2011; Hsiao et al., 2013; Severance et al., 2013;
Kantak et al., 2014; Savignac et al., 2014, 2015). Most
of these studies are either reviews or related experimental
studies of physiological diseases comorbid with depres-
sion (Sullivan et al., 2009; Arseneault-Breard et al.,
2012; Saulnier et al., 2013). Direct clinical and preclinical
studies of depression are very scarce. These data confirm
and demonstrate the hypothesis that probiotic supple-
mentation may be an effective and safe therapy for
chronic-stress-induced depression.
All authors listed have contributed to the work. LS
participated in designing the experimental protocol, data
collection, statistical analysis and writing the manuscript.
JF designed and supervised the study and revised the
manuscript. LS, LJ, LW, WXL, and DYF carried out
behavioral test and sample collection. WT, HX, and JF
provided administrative, technical, or material support.
All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The authors declare that they have no competing
Acknowledgements—The study was granted by NS Bio Japan
and NS Bio Guangzhou. We also thank LetPub for its linguistic
assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.
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(Accepted 11 September 2015)
(Available online 25 September 2015)
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... L. helveticus NS8 administration resulted in multiple effects, including reduced anxiety, slowing cognitive decline, improving cognitive function, and lowering inflammatory markers. The use also resulted in lower serum corticosterone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and the restoration of hippocampal serotonin and norepinephrine [57,58]. For depression induced by chronic stress, L. plantarum NS8 was compared against citalopram, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), resulting in decreased depression and anxiety, decreased stress hormones, increased serotonin and decreased cortisol, and decreased inflammatory markers [57]. ...
... The use also resulted in lower serum corticosterone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and the restoration of hippocampal serotonin and norepinephrine [57,58]. For depression induced by chronic stress, L. plantarum NS8 was compared against citalopram, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), resulting in decreased depression and anxiety, decreased stress hormones, increased serotonin and decreased cortisol, and decreased inflammatory markers [57]. ...
Mental health is a public health concern among professional organizations, clinicians, and consumers alike, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the World Health Organization has identified mental health as an epidemic of the 21st century contributing to the global health burden, which highlights the urgency to develop economical, accessible, minimally invasive interventions to effectively manage depression, anxiety, and stress. Nutritional approaches, including the use of probiotics and psychobiotics to manage depression and anxiety, have elicited interest in recent years. This review aimed to summarize evidence from studies including animal models, cell cultures, and human subjects. Overall, the current evidence suggests that 1) Specific strains of probiotics can reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety; 2) Symptoms may be reduced through one or more possible mechanisms of action, including impact on the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA, modulation of inflammatory cytokines, or enhancing stress responses through effects on stress hormones and the HPA axis; and 3) While psychobiotics may offer therapeutic benefits to manage depression and anxiety, further research, particularly human studies, is needed to better characterize their mode of action and understand optimal dosing in the context of nutritional interventions.
... To address the above problems, research on the control of raw materials, microbial ecosystems, and fermentation processes has been carried out [8]. Lactobacillus species are generally recognized as safe and edible bacteria, possessing multiple beneficial functions such as anti-oxidation [9], cholesterol reduction [10], regulating intestinal flora [11], blood glucose reduction [12], and antidepression [13]. Thus, Lactobacillus strains have been considered applicable starter cultures for their use in fermented pickles. ...
Full-text available
Pickles are a type of traditional fermented vegetables in China. To ascertain the effect of different lactic acid bacteria on pickles, the chemical composition characteristics, flavor substances, and bacterial diversity of the pickles fermented by natural bacteria, Lactobacillus plantarum R5, Lactobacillus pentosus R8, and L. plantarum R5 plus L. pentosus R8 were investigated in this study. The results showed that Lactobacillus enhanced the decrease in pH, increase in total acid content, degradation of nitrite, and production of organic acid (lactic acid and malic acid) of fermented pickles. A total of 80 flavors were detected in the pickles fermented for 14 days, and esters in pickles fermented by Lactobacillus were more plentiful. Firmicutes emerged as the predominant microbial phyla. Amongst these, the commonly encountered microorganisms were Lactobacillus, unclassified Enterobacteriaceae, Pantoea, and Weissella. The multivariate statistical analysis further showed that Lactobacillus had a strong negative correlation with pH and a strong positive correlation with malic acid and lactic acid, and the microorganisms in pickles could acclimate to the changing fermentation environment. The insights gained from this study may be of assistance to us in obtaining new insights into the microbiota succession and chemical compounds involved in the pickles fermented by Lactobacillus.
... Similarly, changes in the gut microbiota have been reported in animal models of depression. The intestinal microbiota of depressed mice induced by chronic mild unforeseeable stimulation (CUMS) showed a reduced relative abundance of Corynebacterium, Colophilus, Lactobacillus and Faeccoccus (Sudo et al., 2004;Liang et al., 2015). Learned helplessness animal models of depression reduce the relative abundance of bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Clostridium spp. ...
Full-text available
Objective This study aims to investigate the composition and function of the gut microbiome in long-term depression using an 8-week chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) rat model.Materials and methodsAnimals were sacrificed after either 4 weeks or 8 weeks under CUMS to mimic long-term depression in humans. The gut microbiome was analyzed to identify potential depression-related gut microbes, and the fecal metabolome was analyzed to detect their functional metabolites. The correlations between altered gut microbes and metabolites in the long-term depression rats were explored. The crucial metabolic pathways related to long-term depression were uncovered through enrichment analysis based on these gut microbes and metabolites.ResultsThe microbial composition of long-term depression (8-week CUMS) showed decreased species richness indices and different profiles compared with the control group and the 4-week CUMS group, characterized by disturbance of Alistipes indistinctus, Bacteroides ovatus, and Alistipes senegalensis at the species level. Additionally, long-term depression was associated with disturbances in fecal metabolomics. D-pinitol was the only increased metabolite in the 8-week CUMS group among the top 10 differential metabolites, while the top 3 decreased metabolites in the long-term depression rats included indoxyl sulfate, trimethylaminen-oxide, and 3 alpha,7 alpha-dihydroxy-12-oxocholanoic acid. The disordered fecal metabolomics in the long-term depression rats mainly involved the biosynthesis of pantothenate, CoA, valine, leucine and isoleucine.Conclusion Our findings suggest that the gut microbiome may participate in the long-term development of depression, and the mechanism may be related to the regulation of gut metabolism.
... Research by Bravo et al. [11] showed that Lactobacillus regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in mice via the vagus nerve. Moreover, Liang et al. [89] reported that Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 improved behavioral and cognitive impairments in rats. In this study, we observed a reduction in the abundance of Lactobacillus in fecal samples of the FLU group, which may be a potential contributor to cognitive impairment. ...
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The aim of the study was to assess the effect of long-term administration of natural prebiotics: Jerusalem artichoke (topinambur, TPB) and inulin (INU) as well as one of the most popular antidepressants, fluoxetine (FLU), on the proliferation of neural stem cells, learning and memory functions, and the composition of the intestinal microbiota in mice. Cognitive functions were assessed using the Morris Water Maze (MWM)Test. Cells were counted using a confocal microscope and ImageJ software. We performed 16S rRNA sequencing to assess changes in the gut microbiome of the mice. The obtained results showed that the 10-week supplementation with TPB (250 mg/kg) and INU (66 mg/kg) stimulates the growth of probiotic bacteria, does not affect the learning and memory process, and does not disturb the proliferation of neural stem cells in the tested animals. Based on this data, we can assume that both TPB and INU seem to be safe for the proper course of neurogenesis. However, 2-week administration of FLU confirmed an inhibitory impact on Lactobacillus growth and negatively affected behavioral function and neurogenesis in healthy animals. The above studies suggest that the natural prebiotics TPB and INU, as natural supplements, may have the potential to enrich the diversity of intestinal microbiota, which may be beneficial for the BGM axis, cognitive functions, and neurogenesis.
... Animal and human studies have shown that gut microbiota can be involved in the regulation of stress/emotion factors such as serotonin synthesis [187], brain-derived neurotrophic factor [188], and cortisol [189], thereby participating in the management of an individual's stress level and related psychiatric symptoms. A microbial metabolite converted from tyrosine, 4-ethylphenyl sulfate (4-EPS) has recently been shown to contribute to the mechanism involving gut-brain interaction [190]. ...
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A variety of physical, emotional, and mental factors can induce a stress response in pet dogs and cats. During this process, hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) and sympathetic–adrenal medulla (SAM) axes are activated to produce a series of adaptive short-term reactions to the aversive situations. Meanwhile, oxidative stress is induced where there is an imbalance between the production and scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Oxidative damage is also incorporated in sustained stress response causing a series of chronic problems, such as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, immune dysfunction, and development of abnormal behaviors. In this review, the effects and mechanisms of dietary regulation strategies (e.g., antioxidants, anxiolytic agents, and probiotics) on relieving stress in pet dogs and cats are summarized and discussed. We aim to shed light on future studies in the field of pet food and nutrition.
... As a common approach to adjust gut microbiota, probiotic intake was found potent in improving cognitive function. For instance, long-term probiotic supplementation enhanced memory of middle-aged rats (O'Hagan et al., 2017); Lactobacillus helveticus NS8 attenuated the cognition deficits caused by restraint stress (Liang et al., 2015). In addition, our previous findings also indicated the positive influence of probiotics on lead-induced memory dysfunction (Xiao et al., 2020;Gu et al., 2022), but till date, no attempts have been made to interrogate their preventive roles prior to the actual damage caused by environmental insults. ...
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Background: The aim of this study is to interrogate the prophylactic effect of probiotic on the lead-induced spatial memory impairment, as well as the underlying mechanisms based on gut microbiota. Methods: Rats were exposed postnatally to 100 ppm of lead acetate during lactation (from postnatal day 1 to 21), to establish the memory deficits model. A probiotic bacterium, namely Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus , was administered by drinking into pregnant rats with a dosage of 10 ⁹ CFU/rat/day till birth. At postnatal week 8 (PNW8), the rats were subjected to Morris water maze and Y-maze test, with fecal samples collected for 16S rRNA sequencing. Besides, the inhibitory effect of Lb. rhamnosus on Escherichia coli was carried out in bacterial co-culture. Results: Female rats prenatally exposed to probiotic improved their performances in the behavioral test, indicating that probiotic could protect rats from memory deficits caused by postnatal lead exposure. This bioremediation activity varies depending on the intervention paradigm used. As revealed by microbiome analysis, although administered in a distinct period from lead exposure, Lb. rhamnosus further changed the microbial structure disrupted by lead exposure, suggesting an effective transgenerational intervention. Of note, gut microbiota, represented by Bacteroidota, varied greatly depending on the intervention paradigm as well as the developmental stage. The concerted alterations were revealed between some keystone taxa and behavioral abnormality, including lactobacillus and E. coli . To this end, an in vitro co-culture was created to demonstrate that Lb. rhamnosus could inhibit the growth of E. coli with direct contact, which is dependent on the growth condition under study. In addition, in vivo infection of E. coli O157 aggravated memory dysfunction, which could also be rescued by probiotic colonization. Conclusions: Early probiotic intervention could prevent organisms from lead-induced memory decline in later life through reprogramming gut microbiota and inhibiting E. coli , providing a promising approach to ameliorate the cognitive damage with environmental origins.
Major depression is impacted by the disruption of gut microbiota. Defects in gut microbiota can lead to microbiota-gut-brain axis dysfunction and increased vulnerability to major depression. While traditional chemotherapeutic approaches, such as antidepressant use, produce an overall partial therapeutic effect on depression, the gut microbiome has emerged as an effective target for better therapeutic outcomes. Recent representative studies on the microbiota hypothesis to explore the association between gut pathophysiology and major depression have indicated that restoring gut microbiota and microbiota-gut-brain axis could alleviate depression. We reviewed studies that supported the gut microbiota hypothesis to better understand the pathophysiology of depression; we also explored reports suggesting that gut microbiota restoration is an effective approach for improving depression. These findings indicate that gut microbiota and microbiota-gut-brain axis are appropriate new therapeutic targets for major depression.KeywordsMajor depressionMicrobiotaGut-brain axisMicrobiota-gut-brain axisPsychobioticsProbioticsFecal microorganism transplantation
N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and probiotics have antidepressant-like effects, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We hypothesized that n-3 PUFA combined with live and dead probiotics synergistically improves depression by modulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and serotonergic pathways through the brain-gut axis. Rats were randomly divided into seven groups (n = 8/group): non-chronic mild stress (CMS) with n-6 PUFA, CMS with n-3 PUFA, n-6 PUFA, live probiotics, dead probiotics, n-3 PUFA and live probiotics, and n-3 PUFA and dead probiotics. Diets of n-6 and n-3 PUFA and oral supplementation of live and dead probiotics were provided for 12 weeks, and CMS was performed for the last 5 weeks. N-3 PUFA and probiotics improved depressive behaviors and modulated the brain and gut HPA axis by synergistically increasing glucocorticoid receptor expression and decreasing corticotropin-releasing factor expression and blood levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone and corticosterone. N-3 PUFA and probiotics upregulated the brain serotonergic pathway through serotonin levels and expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, phosphorylated cAMP response binding protein, and 5-hydroxytryptamine 1A receptor while downregulating the gut serotonergic pathway. Furthermore, n-3 PUFA and probiotics increased the abundance of Ruminococcaceae, brain and gut short chain fatty acid levels, and occludin expression while decreasing the expression of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, and prostaglandin E2 and blood lipopolysaccharides levels. There was no significant difference between the live and dead probiotics. In conclusion, n-3 PUFA and probiotics had synergistic antidepressant-like effects on the HPA axis and serotonergic pathways of the brain and gut through the brain-gut axis.
Gut-brain axis confers to the bidirectional intimation between the gut and brain and modulates gut homeostasis and central nervous system through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, enteroendocrine system, neuroendocrine system, inflammatory and immune pathways. The preclinical and clinical report showed that gut dysbiosis might play a major regulatory role in neurological diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disease that causes recurrent and unprovoked seizures, and numerous risk factors are implicated in developing epilepsy. Advanced consideration of the gut-microbiota-brain axis can reduce ambiguity about epilepsy pathology, antiepileptic drugs, and effective therapeutic targets. Gut microbiota sequencing analysis reported that the level of Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, Fusobacteria, and Firmicutes was increased, and the level of Actinobacteria and Bacteroidetes was decreased in the epilepsy patients. The clinical and preclinical studies have also indicated that probiotics, ketogenic diet, faecal microbiota transplantation and antibiotic can improve gut dysbiosis and alleviate seizure by enhancing the abundance of healthy biota. This study aims to give an overview of the connection between gut microbiota and epilepsy, how gut microbiome changes may cause epilepsy, and whether gut microbiome restoration could be used as a treatment for epilepsy.
Background: Chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) can induce depressive behaviours and alter the composition of the gut microbiome. Although modulating gut microbiota can improve depression-like behaviour in rats, the mechanism of action is unclear. Additionally, gut microbiota can affect brain function through the neuroendocrine pathway. This pathway may function by regulating the secretion of neurotransmitters such as tryptophan (TRP). Metabolites of TRP, such as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and kynurenine (KYN), are related to the pathophysiological process of depression. Indoleamine-2, 3-dioxygenase-1 (IDO1) and Tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) are the key rate-limiting enzymes in TRP metabolism and play an important role in KYN and 5-HT metabolism. Methods: Rats were subjected to four weeks of CUMS and given rifaximin150 mg/kg by oral gavage daily. After modelling, we investigated the rat's behaviours, composition of the faecal microbiome, neurotransmitter metabolism and key metabolic enzymes of the TRP pathway in the hippocampus (HIP). Results: Rifaximin administration improved depressive behaviour in rats, corrected intestinal microbiota disorders and HIP TRP metabolism and regulated the expression of IDO1 and TPH2 in the HIP. Conclusions: Rifaximin improves depression-like behaviour in CUMS rats by influencing the gut microbiota and tryptophan metabolism.
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The treatment guideline draws on several international guidelines: ( i ) Practice Guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder, Second Edition; [1] ( ii ) Clinical Guidelines for the Treatment of Depressive Disorders by the Canadian Psychiatric Association and the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT); [2] ( iii ) National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines; [3] ( iv ) Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Clinical Practice Guidelines Team for Depression (RANZCAP); [4] ( v ) Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) Guidelines; [5] ( vi ) World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP) Treatment Guideline for Unipolar Depressive Disorder; [6] and ( vii ) British Association for Psychopharmacology Guidelines. [7
Sustained exposure to various psychological stressors can exacerbate neuropsychiatric disorders, including drug addiction. Addiction is a chronic brain disease in which individuals cannot control their need for drugs, despite negative health and social consequences. The brains of addicted individuals are altered and respond very differently to stress than those of individuals who are not addicted. In this Review, we highlight some of the common effects of stress and drugs of abuse throughout the addiction cycle. We also discuss both animal and human studies that suggest treating the stress-related aspects of drug addiction is likely to be an important contributing factor to a long-lasting recovery from this disorder.
Purpose of review: The gut microbiota has become a focus of research for those interested in the brain and behaviour. Here, we profile the gut microbiota in a variety of neuropsychiatric syndromes. Recent findings: Multiple routes of communication between the gut and brain have been established and these include the vagus nerve, immune system, short chain fatty acids and tryptophan. Developmentally, those born by caesarean section have a distinctly different microbiota in early life to those born per vaginum. At the other extreme, individuals who age with considerable ill-heath tend to show narrowing in microbial diversity. Recently, the gut microbiota has been profiled in a variety of conditions including autism, major depression and Parkinson's disease. There is still debate as to whether or not these changes are core to the pathophysiology or merely epiphenomenal. Summary: The current narrative suggests that certain neuropsychiatric disorders might be treated by targeting the microbiota either by microbiota transplantation, antibiotics or psychobiotics.
Clinical brain imaging and postmortem studies provide evidence of structural and functional abnormalities of key limbic and cortical structures in depressed patients, suggesting that spine synapse connectivity is altered in depression. Characterization of the cellular determinants underlying these changes in patients are limited, but studies in rodent models demonstrate alterations of dendrite complexity and spine density and function that could contribute to the morphological and functional alterations observed in humans. Rodent studies demonstrate region specific effects in chronic stress models of depression, including reductions in dendrite complexity and spine density in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC) but increases in the basolateral amygdala and nucleus accumbens. Alterations of spine synapse connectivity in these regions are thought to contribute to the behavioral symptoms of depression, including disruption of cognition, mood, emotion, motivation, and reward. Studies of the mechanisms underlying these effects demonstrate a role for altered brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling that regulates synaptic protein synthesis. In contrast, there is evidence that chronic antidepressant treatment can block or reverse the spine synapse alterations caused by stress. Notably, the new fast acting antidepressant ketamine, which produces rapid therapeutic actions in treatment resistant MDD patients, rapidly increases spine synapse number in the PFC of rodents and reverses the effects of chronic stress. The rapid synaptic and behavioral actions of ketamine occur via increased BDNF regulation of synaptic protein synthesis. Together these studies provide evidence for a neurotophic and synaptogenic hypothesis of depression and treatment response and indicate that spine synapse connectivity in key cortical and limbic brain regions is critical for control of mood and emotion. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
The world at present is fast approaching a climate cliff. Science tells us that an increase in global average temperature of 2°C (3.6° F) constitutes the planetary tipping point with respect to climate change, leading to irreversible changes beyond human control. A 2°C rise is sufficient to melt a significant portion of the world’s ice due to feedbacks that will hasten the melting. It will thus set the course to an ice-free world. Sea level will rise. Numerous islands will be threatened along with coastal regions throughout the globe. Extreme weather events (droughts, storms, floods) will be far more common. The paleoclimatic record shows that an increase in global average temperature of several degrees means that 50 percent or more of all species—plants and animals—will be driven to extinction. Global food crops will be negatively affected. This article can also be found at the Monthly Review website, where most recent articles are published in full. Click here to purchase a PDF version of this article at the Monthly Review website.